To commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1915, as reported each week by the Morpeth Herald. All material is published with kind permission of the Mackay family. We thank them for their support and generosity in allowing us access to their archive.
LOCAL OFFICERS AND MEN RECOMMENDED
A supplement to the “London Gazette,” published on Wednesday evening, contains a despatch from Sir John French, in which is given a long list of the names of those whom the Field-Marshall recommends for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field.
Northumberland Hussars. Cookson, Lieut.-Colonel P.B.; Sidney, Major H.; Burrell, Captain S.; Kennard, Captain, W.A., 13th Hussars, adjutant; Eustace Smith, Second-Lieut. P.; Joicey, Second-Lieut. E.R.; Laing, Second-Lieut. C.M.; Halliday, Sergt.-Major M.; Allison, Sergt. G.; Armstrong, Sergt. A.; Cooke Jones, Sergt. R.; Nicholson, Sergt. E.; Cruickshank, Corporal J.; Hall, Lance-Corporal J.R.; Blair, Trumpeter T.
A MILITARY CHARACTER
Since the war began our good old cosy country town has had more of a military than an agricultural character, the one which for long centuries it possessed.
The present month has seen that new character greatly emphasised by the arrival of the thousand and odds Tyneside Commercial or 19th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, for their two or three months’ preliminary drill.
The exigencies of the war and its demand for more men, and still more men, have greatly disarranged life in our midst. Not only schools and education, but churches and religion have had to give way before its peremptory requirements.
In the public elementary schools, not only the scholars, but the teachers, too, are half-timers. The pupils of those of the schools still in use for education attend in the mornings, and their places are taken in the afternoon by those of the other schools that have been wholly given up to the military. On the minds of the children and on those of the teachers as well will be deeply impressed.
NEW RECRUITING CAMPAIGN
There has been a lull in recruiting in these parts for several weeks.
In a period of good work, Morpeth has sent 800, Bedlington, 1,700; and Blyth 2,300 men to join the colours. Many of these men have now been trained and sent for service, and the depots will presently be awaiting more men.
The original committee formed for these places in the Borough is just now preparing for another recruiting campaign, and anticipate good results, especially from unmarried men.
MORPETH MINERS’ RESOLUTION
At a meeting held by the Morpeth Moor miners a resolution was passed that we protest against the excessive prices we are paying for foodstuffs and ask the Government to take immediate action so that those foodstuffs be reduced to normal prices as hastily as possible.
IMPORTANT RECRUITING NOTICE
We have received the following communication from Mr J.P. Turner, recruiting officer at Morpeth.
He says:— To any of your readers who have been wishful to join the Army and who may have been rejected, or liable to rejection on account of insufficient height or chest measurement, it is now noted for general information that until further orders the minimum standard of height for the following regiments only: — Northumberland Fusiliers, West Yorkshire Regiment, and West Riding Regiment, is 5 feet 1 inch; minimum chest measurement, 34 inches.
It will be seen from the annual report of Mopreth Dispensary that this old and worthy institution is doing a noble work among the poor in Morpeth.
A short time ago the House Surgeon (Miss Pringle), who for 13 years has performed the duties with great satisfaction, resigned her appointment to take up a more important one in Newcastle. Although the governors have made every endeavour to secure another House Surgeon, they have been unable to do so, owing to so many medical men and medical students joining the army.
An arrangement has been made with the medical men in the town to do the dispensary work until the end of the war, when the governors hope to secure someone to take up the appointment.
MORPETH CITIZENS’ TRAINING LEAGUE
In support of the Morpeth Citizens’ Training League, a largely-attended meeting was held in St George’s Schoolroom, Cottingwood Lane, on Tuesday night. In the unavoidable absence of the Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton), Mr Allon Burn occupied the chair.
At the outset, the Chairman said that they were met that night to consider whether the League — and he was pleased to see so many active members present — should proceed under its present conditions or whether it should become affiliated to the Central Association Volunteer Training Corps. He thought there were many things which recommended such a course.
He then read a letter that Lord Desborough had received from the War Office. They would gather from it that the War Office had at length recognised civilian training corps.
The letter was to the following effect:— That the Army Council are prepared to grant recognition to the Central Association Volunteer Training Corps, as long as a responsible officer, approved by the War Office, is its adviser, and the Council will extend that recognition to such volunteer forces and rifle clubs, etc., as may become affiliated to your association.
It is to be clearly understood that only the names of those can be registered who are not eligible through age to serve in the Regular or Territorial Army, or are unable to do so for some genuine reason, which is to be recorded in the corps’ register; in the case of the latter, they must agree in writing to enlist if specially called upon to do so. No arms, ammunition or clothing will be supplied from public sources, nor will financial assistance be given. Members of recognised organisations will be allowed to wear as a distinctive badge a red armlet, with the letters “G.R.” inscribed thereon.
It will be open to Army recruiting officers to visit the corps at any time and to recruit any members found eligible for service with the Regular Army whose presence in the corps is not accounted for by some good and sufficient reason.
The Chairman added that there was no less reason today for them to be enrolled as members of the League and keep themselves fit than there was three months ago. (Applause).
Major Temperley said it would not do in a matter like this to be discouraged by the circumstance that the War Office did not appear very sympathetic. The first thing they had to remember was that this country’s most important national movements were originated by the people, and not by the proper authorities; and in that respect they differed from the Germans.
When he first joined the old Volunteer force, they had very little sympathy from the War Office. From that force there had sprung the Territorial Forces, which had enabled the Government to send a large army to France.
He asked them not to assume that the War Office authorities were not sympathetic. They were engaged in a gigantic war, and it was not surprising that they did not listen to them. The War Office had been accustomed to administer to an army of half a million men, and now it was called upon to administer to an army of three-and-a-half millions. Then one’s satisfaction was that this movement would help the nation in crisis. (Applause.)
With all those Training Leagues springing up all over the country, quite spontaneously, they were not recognised by the Government because they had no means of knowing what the different corps were doing, There was no uniformity among them, and so if the War Office had wanted to use them, it would have taken them weeks to find out what they could really do. The idea of the central body was to have full particulars of the strength and qualifications of the different persons in them.
What was wanted was the whole available manhood of the nation, who were not capable of enlisting for foreign or general service, to be ready as a last resort to do whatever the War Office thought they were capable of doing. This organisation was to give every man a chance of qualifying by doing drill, by being trained to shoot, and making himself fit to take his place should any emergency arise. (Applause.)
Mr George Renwick said it was remarkable that just 100 years ago there were engaged in exactly similar work as they were that night. They formed volunteers to repel invasion. Notwithstanding all their boasted civilisation and all their religious and educational work, yet they had war. They would always have wars, and he had seen a good many in his time. At all times they had been told that the era of universal peace was near, and yet it seemed as far off as ever, therefore it behoved them all to be ready for any emergency that might arise. (Applause.)
There was an arbitrary limit of 38 fixed by the War authorities. He did not know why that arbitrary age-limit should be fixed, but there it was. “What are we going to do between the ages of 38 and 65?” asked Mr Renwick. There was a lot of good work that could be done, and yet the Government seemed to hesitate to acknowledge that good work could be done. They all knew that men at the age of 50 were as good as men of 40, or even 38 years.
The Government had said that they were willing to accept the services of the elderly men; but they were not to have a uniform or have arms or ammunition supplied to them. When his father joined the early Volunteers at Tynemouth, every man had to buy his own uniform, rifle and bayonet. The Government would not recognise the Volunteers then for a time, but that was the beginning of the old Volunteer force. Every man must acknowledge that had it not been for the Territorials, they would have been in a sorry plight. (Applause.)
What could they do, notwithstanding the diffidence of the War Office, to help them? They could do something whether they joined the Central Association or not. They could double or treble the members who were drilling in Morpeth. There were 80 members at present. Surely they could raise two or three times that number. When the Government got over the rush and the equipment of their armies, they would be able to turn their attention to this new force. (Applause.) If they had no uniforms and rifles, let them get their league as strong as possible, and then insist that they were going to have uniforms and be armed. (Applause.)
What they wanted to do was to strengthen their league, and he thought they ought to join the Central Association. They must insist that they had recognition, uniform, and arms, and the Government ought to give them free ammunition. (Applause.) He thought if they had that that Morpeth would prove that it was ready in the time of its country’s danger to step into the breach. He knew what they had done in the past. He remembered the gallant contingent sent out to South Africa. (Applause.) What Morpeth had done before, Morpeth could do again. (Applause.)
It was unanimously decided that the league should become affiliated to the Central Association.
The Chairman then proposed that Mr Geo. Renwick be appointed their first commandant. If he accepted that position, he felt certain that there was a successful future in front of the local corps. They would not only have a man who was respected and appreciated by all the people of Morpeth, but one who was a powerful factor with the authorities that be. (Applause.) They could also have a sub-commandant, who would carry out the routine work. Knowing that they had Mr Renwick, they would be delighted to obey his orders in every particular. (Applause.)
Councillor R.N. Swinney seconded the proposition. He said there was no one they could get in this district who could bring more weight on the powers that be than Mr Geo. Renwick. (Applause.)
The motion was carried unanimously.
Mr Geo. Renwick said he thought he might be able to manage, if he could get someone to act as sub-commandant, and he suggested the name of Major Crawford. He (Mr Renwick) promised to consider the whole matter, and give his decision in a few days.
Whether he was commandant or not, he was going to help them on condition that they had 150 members. That meant they had another 70 to raise. In the meantime he would have a talk with Major Crawford, and if they were backed up they would have a very efficient corps. (Applause.)
Songs were sung by Private Harper, and Mr A.B. Platts presided at the piano.
ST JAMES’ CHURCH INSTITUTE, MORPETH
A most successful and pleasant evening was held in St James’ Schools on Thursday, February 11th, arranged for our soldier friends by the members of the above institute. This took the form of a whist-drive, when over 100 took part in the proceedings, and was appreciated and enjoyed by the soldiers present.
The Rev. F.C. Hardy, in presenting the prizes to the successful winners, expressed his pleasure at seeing such a good company.
He also proposed a hearty vote of thanks to the ladies who had seen to the catering, not only for that night, but for every night, in St James’ Hall, in ungrudgingly sparing their time to prepare cheap little suppers for the soldiers. This vote of thanks was received with acclamation.
St James’ Church Institute and the ladies of the Communicants’ Union have done good work for our soldiers since the first day they came amongst us, and are still doing so.
The former in throwing their little institute open to the soldiers, where they can read, write and play games and billiards, also for loan of tables, games, etc., and in arranging St James’ Hall as a writing and recreation room, under the energetic supervision of Rev. F.C. Hardy; St James’ Hall being kindly placed at the disposal of the soldiers for their comfort and recreation by the Rector.
The latter, in their untiring attendance every evening to see to the wants of the soldiers, who by the large demand for supper, appreciate and enjoy their kindly consideration. We must not forget the members of the B.B., who attend and make excellent waiters.
The committee of St James’ Institute are also indebted to Mr T.J. Smith, cabinet-maker, for loan of tables for the whist drive.
A LOCAL POET
We have received the following stanzas from Mr Thos. Glass of Morpeth, illustrative of the general appreciation of the lads of the north-country who have donned the khaki in defence of our country and empire:—
Tyneside For Ever
The Tyneside Scottish, with his tartan cap,
His khaki jacket, what a fine looking chap,
See him in the canteen, see him on parade,
That’s when he’s hot stuff, 99 in the shade.
With men so grand
Need fear no foreign foe,
She may rest content,
For these men are bent
On putting the Hun below.
The Tyneside Irish, with his shamrock green,
Is dying for a fight, O, the wild spalpeen,
See him chewing barbed wire, see him in his lair,
Oh, Willie, do be careful, say another prayer.
The Tyneside Commercial, with his fine khaki suit,
His long, swinging stride, in his number 9 boot;
See him on the Exchange, see him with his gun,
Now Kaiser Willie, the war will soon be done.
The Lads O’ The North
At the country’s call,
It’s the duty of all,
To step forward and do what they can;
Let no laggard be found
When the bugle does sound,
But prove to the country you’re a true British man.
But the lads of the North
Will show Britain their worth
When it comes to a fair, stand-up fight;
When they go to the Front
And bear battles’ brunt
They’ll teach the Germans what’s wrong and what’s right.
Now, the lads of the Tyne
In both yards and the mine
Have formed a great fighting machine,
And they laugh at the joke
Of that old Kaiser bloke
When he brags of his great submarine.
These lads’ hearts are true
To the Red, White and Blue —
The Flag that bears not a stain;
So down with that Vulture,
The creator of Kultur,
Whose works are at Rheims and Louvaine.
DISTRESS IN THE NORTH
Mr C. Fenwick, on Friday night, in the House of Commons in the debate on Mr Ferens’s motion calling upon the Government to use every endeavour to prevent a continuance of the rise in the price of necessaries of life, said he wished to refer to the price of coal.
The mover of the resolution had told them there was no evidence of extraordinary abnormal distress, but there was a great deal of distress nevertheless, although it was kept as far as possible from the public gaze. If they entered the homes of those who had sent their sons or husbands to the front, who had deprived themselves gratuitously of the bread-winners, they would find there a state of serious distress.
Extravagant statements had been made in the Press with regard to the price of coal, and they had ben repeated on public platforms, against the miners and their employers, to the effect that an understanding had been arrived at between the workmen and their employers with a view to increasing the price of coal and to enhancing wages. How little that was the case he hoped to show.
On the north-east coast they had probably suffered more than any mining community in the kingdom. For the first three months of the war the miners in the north had only about a couple of days’ work a week, and even now when the price of coal was so high, and poor people were suffering severely in consequence, the Northumberland miners were not getting full time employment.
The London poor should be given to understand that it was not the miner nor his employer who was responsible for the increased charges. The principal distributors were the railway companies, the ship owners, and the merchants in London; it was they who divided the increased profits or prices.
CAMBO INDUSTRIAL AND HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
At the general meeting of the members of the above society, held on Friday evening last, it was unanimously agreed that the usual annual exhibition be indefinitely postponed until the conclusion of the present war.
As so many of the supporters of this show — young men residing over a wide district — have joined the colours, it was agreed to await the time when it is to be hoped many absent friends may be able to participate in this well-known northern gathering.
It was agreed that the next show be held on the schedule as distributed for 1914, and sports as on the posters of that year. Exhibitors should retain their schedules for future use.
7TH NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS
The appeal issued in our columns last week for recruits to fill up vacancies in the ranks of the 1st and 2nd Service Battalions has met with a fair response during the past week.
Each day a number of men has come forward to the depot in Fenkle Street, Alnwick, to be enlisted. It is hoped that there will be a continuous response, as the number required yet is still large.
Arrangements have been made at most of the towns in North Northumberland where men can obtain particulars of enlistment, but if any man in the country districts wishes for particulars, he can get same sent by forwarding his name and address to the Depot, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, Alnwick.
No man can be enlisted under 19 years of age, and the age limit is 38, except in cases where men have had previous service as N.C.O’s. Any man, therefore, of age who is physically fit and not under 5ft. 3in. in height is eligible. There are a number of men with service in the 1st V.B.N.F. and 7th N.F. living in the North who would be especially welcome recruits.
Uniforms are issued immediately on enlistment, and during the early part of the training the men are comfortably billeted in Alnwick, and have reasonable leave for the purpose of putting their private affairs in order.
BLYTH BREWSTER SESSIONS
The Chairman remarked that it was very gratifying to find that the number of convictions for drunkenness was considerably less than at the previous year, and was largely due to early closing. Three licence-holders had been proceeded against, but none had been convicted. It was very gratifying that the trade had been so well conducted.
Whilst they complimented licence-holders, they hoped they would assist the bench, and especially in using their influence to prevent civilians from treating soldiers. The bench had a responsible and often a painful duty to perform many a time, and they felt, if licence-holders would help them, it would make their duties much lighter and pleasanter than they were.
BLYTH AND THE GERMAN GUNS
Blyth Council applied for a German trophy gun to be placed in the park. The War Office has replied that such trophies will not be disposed of until the war is over.
SUNDAY CONCERT PERMITTED
Application was made by Mr W.D. Soulsby for leave to hold a Sunday concert at the Hippodrome, on March 4th, organised for the benefit of the local Relief and Red Cross funds.
The programme would be a selection from the orchestra, and no pictures. Seeing that it was a worthy object, Mr Soulsby hoped the bench would grant it.
Mr Young said the bench were not in favour of Sunday concerts, but in view of the times and the good object, the bench had decided to grant the application, but they hoped the proceedings would be decorous and respectable.
Mr Soulsby gave the assurance that nothing would be lacking on the part of the applicants to make that so.
MORPETH RED CROSS HOSPITAL
The Commandant Sixth Northumberland V.A.D. Hospital has received, with thanks, gifts from the under-mentioned for the use of the hospital:— Magazines: Mrs Philip, Miss Ayre, Soldiers’ Institute, Miss Anderson; night-shirts, pyjamas, rabbits: Miss Middleton; chairs and eggs: Mrs Straker; tarts and soup: Mrs C. Grey; vegetables: The Mayor; books and magazines: Mrs Brumell; bed-jackets, cream, Benger’s food, plants and cake: Mrs Simpson; night-shirts and bed-jackets: Cambridge Hall, Newcastle; eggs, Mrs Barnett; flowers: Sister Chapman; oranges: “E” Coy. 19th Northumberland Fusiliers; cakes: Mrs Dickie; old linen, swabs: Mrs Kirsopp; curtains, dinner ware, hot water jug: Mrs Philip.
For the matron’s rooms we had furniture lent from Mrs Burdon, Miss Jones, Mr F. Deuchar, Miss Renwick, Mrs R. Spenser.
We still require forks, knives, spoons, sheets, dressing-gowns, cushions.
In aid of the Red Cross Society, a dance will be held at Ogle on Friday, February 26th, 1915, from 3pm till 2am. Admission 1/6 (supper included).
BLYTH BOUND SHIP
The Exchange Telegraph Company says that the Dartmouth steamer Torquay, bound for Blyth, was towed into Scarborough Harbour on Friday last in a sinking condition by the Scarborough trawler Gamecock. She is thought to have struck a mine. One of the crew, named Pearson, of Grimsby, was killed by the explosion.
According to the Central News, two officers of the crew were injured. One of the latter, said to be the mate, sustained an injury to his side, and the other, the steward, William Newton Hall, aged 37, married, of Eastbourne Grove, South Shields, was scalded about the legs.
The damage was amidships, one boiler being penetrated.
THREAT OF BLOCKADE
Whether Blyth shipping will be seriously affected by the action of Germany in its latest “blockade” declarations is a question that is just now frequently asked, for, of course, it will have much to do with the trade of our local collieries, which just now are working very well.
There is not much apprehension felt nor lack of ships and men from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Russia to take coal abroad. German vessels did a considerable trade at Blyth. They are now, of course, swept off the seas.
The threat of the enemy to sow mines around our harbours, if carried into execution, will naturally affect Blyth, but there is no indication hereabout that the arrival of “the day” which the Germans have threatened to witness Great Britain’s trade suspended, will herald any such result as the enemy has so fondly hoped.
GIFTS FOR SOLDIERS
The Committee at Barrington and Choppington for providing comforts for soldiers have forwarded parcels for the Northumberland Hussars and Coldstream Guards at the Front. A tea held at Mrs Dixon’s, Choppington Station, realised £2 7s, and a cake realised 24/-. The parcels sent away include 15 wool shirts, 12 pairs of mittens, 78 pairs of socks, 34 scarves, 3 dozen handkerchiefs, as well as cigarettes, tobacco and other comforts.
The committee wish to thank all who have contributed to the parcel and funds.
RECRUITING RECORD AT ANNITSFORD
An interesting recruiting record is reported from Annitsford.
Private J.T. King, of Jubilee Terrace, is in the Northumberland Fusiliers, and his brother Patrick and his son “J.A.” have enlisted in the Tyneside Irish. In addition, eight brothers-in-law and five nephews are with the colours.
BLYTH APPRENTICE MISSING
Charles Patterson, of Carlton Srreet, Blyth, an apprentice on the steamer “Dulwich,” which was torpedoed in the Channel by a German submarine, is one of the two of the crew reported missing.
Twenty-nine of the crew were rescued.